Tuesday, August 21, 2012

'Teenth Tuesday, 5.06 "Buyout"

Having successfully crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains into Tennessee and begun to find places for the various things I brought with me to live, it's time to return to Breaking Bad and Sunday's latest episode. Again, I write these posts as if you've already seen the episode, Readers Mine, so: !! SPOILER ALERT!!

The cold open gets right into it with Walt, Mike, and Todd cleaning up the mess from the end of last week's "Dead Freight." To a strange and moody track of synthesized chimes, the crew disassembles and dismembers the dirt-bike belonging to the the child Todd killed. The pieces are collected and dropped into translucent white polyethylene barrels, and followed with several gallons of hydrofluoric acid to dissolve the evidence. In a brilliant piece of staging, Todd is shown uncovering the child's hand from where they have temporarily buried him in the back of a dump-truck, and Walt is seen opening up another empty barrel. Like the best horror films, we don'tsee what happens to the child's body, but we know, and not seeing is somehow even worse.

The rest of the episode is also fallout from "Dead Freight," and Jesse and Mike are both trying to call it quits in light of this latest unintended consequence. Mike's even got a way to tie up all the loose ends: sell off their shares of the Great Methlaymine Heist for a cool $5 million each. Mike takes care of his people who're in jail, and he and Jesse fade into the background, wealthy and free. Enter Deckland, Mike's contact from Phoenix who's in the market for some methylamine, provided that such a purchase insures that Blue Magic meth disappears from the market. So it's either all the methylamine, or none of it. I've read a couple of recaps which posit Deckland as this season's "Big Bad," but somehow I doubt it. I still think that Walt is going to fulfill that role this season, no matter how uncomfortable the audience may be with seeing their beloved anti-hero turn full-fledged villain. Deckland is more along the lines of being a complication, and in many ways is Arizona's own Walter White: a man "in the empire business."

By far the best, and most significant, scenes in this episode take place in the White house, as Jesse tries to convince Walt to sell his share of the methylamine and get out of the business. Jesse calls Walt on his too-cool-for-school, hard-liquor-sippin' attitude, reminding him that he was there when Walt figured out that he needed $737,000 to do everything he wanted to do (2.01: "Seven Thirty Seven"), and that $5 million is that amount plus, you know, almost $4.25 million more. Walt, of course, will have none of it, and here's where things begin to get really interesting inside the dark corners of Walt's noggin. Remember Gray Matter, Gretchen and Elliott? The people who were willing to pay for Walt's cancer treatment? Well Walt does. Spinning a deeply embittered tale of being bought out of what is now a $2 billion business for $5,000, Walt tells Jesse he'll never settle for pennies on the dollar again, and the way he tells it, he was the injured party way back when. However, the picture Gretchen painted of the dissolution of the Gray Matter triumvirate back in "Peekaboo" (2.06) is quite different. In that version, Walt was vacationing with her at her parents' place and suddenly stormed away, leaving her, Elliott, and Gray Matter behind. Meaning that Walt got pissed off, pouty, and stalked off with a chip on his shoulder without explaining anything to anyone, or even trying to work things out like a reasonable human being. And every week since he's been checking the stock quotes on Gray Matter, twisting the knife in his guts, squatting in his own private desert and eating at his heart.*

Finally, however, we get a break from all the heavy stuff in a tremendous "guess who's coming for dinner" scene between Walt, Jesse, and Skyler, where Aaron Paul once again shows off his comedic chops as the ultimate unwanted guest and witness to an ongoing family fight. His attempts at being polite ("Well, great job with the shopping then, because these are choice!" and retreats into long drinks of water while his eyes flick back and forth, had us howling. Interesting too that while Walt continued to sip hard liquor and Sky found a glass big enough to hold 3/4 of a bottle of wine at a go, Jesse was drinking a tall glass of ice water. Jesse is also sitting at the table opposite the place usually reserved for Walter Jr., and is very much navigating the same emotional currents between Walt and Sky at dinner that Jr. has been lately. Walt as much as says that he's given up his biological kids (he blames Sky, of course, nothing is ever his fault, after all), so who better to fill the void left by his oldest son than his younger partner. Things are just weird at the White house.

In the end, Walt has a plan that will let everyone win (don't hold your breath), and is cocky enough to maintain his smug, self-satisfied smile even when Mike is pushing the muzzle of a gun into his skull. This can only end in tears. So join me next week for the post-mortem of 5.07: "Say My Name" (only two episodes left in this mini-season!), and be sure to check out what my partner's cooking up over at Unfettered Brilliance for tomorrow's "Walter White Wednesday." In the meantime, check me out on Twitter and Facebook for all the Breaking Bad goodies that cross my desk, and I'll see you next week!

*with apologies to Stephen Crane

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